Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America
American kids are living in a world of ongoing public debates about race, daily displays of racial injustice, and for some, an increased awareness surrounding diversity and inclusion. In this heated context, sociologist Margaret A. Hagerman zeroes in on affluent, white kids to observe how they make sense of privilege, unequal educational opportunities, and police violence. In fascinating detail, Hagerman considers the role that they and their families play in the reproduction of racism and racial inequality in America.
White Kids, based on two years of research involving in-depth interviews with white kids and their families, is a clear-eyed and sometimes shocking account of how white kids learn about race. In doing so, this book explores questions such as, “How do white kids learn about race when they grow up in families that do not talk openly about race or acknowledge its impact?” and “What about children growing up in families with parents who consider themselves to be ‘anti-racist’?”
Featuring the actual voices of young, affluent white kids and what they think about race, racism, inequality, and privilege, White Kids illuminates how white racial socialization is much more dynamic, complex, and varied than previously recognized. It is a process that stretches beyond white parents’ explicit conversations with their white children and includes not only the choices parents make about neighborhoods, schools, peer groups, extracurricular activities, and media, but also the choices made by the kids themselves. By interviewing kids who are growing up in different racial contexts—from racially segregated to meaningfully integrated and from politically progressive to conservative—this important book documents key differences in the outcomes of white racial socialization across families. And by observing families in their everyday lives, this book explores the extent to which white families, even those with anti-racist intentions, reproduce and reinforce the forms of inequality they say they reject.
"[The author] examines how affluent white children think about race Hagerman spent two years immersed with 30 privileged white Midwestern families to produce this timely...study. [S]he provides revealing portraits….[and] is especially good on the ‘conundrum of privilege’….A complex and nuanced...book."
"Margaret Hagerman’s White Kids brings to mind two words: must read....Hagerman unearths the segregation, income inequality, and racial biases which run rampant in her subjects’ lives... Hagerman’s writing is crisp and riveting...She puts forth a crucial analysis on the 'well-meaning,' 'colorblind' racism that her subjects perpetuate, stripping down the coded language of suburbia until it reveals the ugly truth underneath."
—STARRED Foreword Reviews
"Hagerman's book is a careful, painful and convincing argument that when white people give their children advantages, they are often disadvantaging others. Racism is so hard to overturn, in part, because white people prop it up when they work to make sure their children succeed."
— NBC's "Think" blog
“A terrific book tracing the different trajectories of racial meaning young white children make about themselves and others as they navigate the worlds of school, friendship, and neighborhood, as well as the larger world beyond. This book is full of rich insight that should give us both pause and a sense of possibility.”
—Amy L. Best, Author of Fast Food Kids: French Fries, Lunch Lines, and Social Ties
“This innovative, absorbing ethnography reveals that there is no single way that whites learn about race. Environmental influences such as schools, neighborhoods, and even extracurricular activities profoundly shape the ways that affluent white children think about racism and its impact on people of color. It’s fascinating to learn how one child develops a critique of police shootings while another insists that racism does not exist at all. This immersive study will transform the way we think about racial socialization among the privileged. White Kids is a must read for anyone interested in how racial attitudes in America take shape in their earliest moments.”
—Monica McDermott, Author of Working-Class White: The Making and Unmaking of Race Relations
“More than anything else, whiteness is an everyday practice constructed out of mostly mundane, seemingly ‘beyond race’ interactions. In her masterful White Kids, Margaret A. Hagerman demonstrates this fact by showing how privileged children in a Midwestern town are socialized into whiteness and, more significantly, make choices to reproduce whiteness. Hagerman’s book deserves to be read widely as it is a sociological gem!”
—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Author of Racism Without Racists
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